Top things to do in Rotterdam

A lot of tourists know Amsterdam and visit the city all the time but few talk about her cousin to the South. Despite being totally bombed to ashes by the Nazis during WWII, Rotterdam has emerged from those ashes like the proverbial phoenix to become one of the most beautiful and modern cities in the Netherlands and Europe. The name “Rotterdam” originated in the thirteenth century and refers to a dam in the river Rotte.

Rotterdam is a municipality and city in the Dutch province of South Holland situated in the west of The Netherlands. The municipality is the second largest in the country (behind Amsterdam). Rotterdam is known as a city of architecture. A few square kilometres of the city centre offers a complete overview of what the twentieth century has produced in terms of modern architecture.

Rotterdam has this air of acceptance and tolerance to it that has always attracted tourists to the city. This port city with its famous skyline is the ideal destination for a day trip or weekend. Discover the secrets behind the beautiful architectural delights. View the historic Delfshaven next to the modern buildings on the Wilhelminapier. Be amazed by various museums, filled with an edgy design to the works of old masters. In the centre, you will find plenty of trendy shops and restaurants.

Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam at night

What to see in Rotterdam?

Rotterdam is that city with many faces. The unique skyline, the street lights at night and the famous Erasmus Bridge as eye-catcher all add to what makes the city special. Striking attractions such as the Euromast and De Hef, the harbours with the Wilhelminapier, the prestigious Hotel New York and the unique Steamship SS Rotterdam. Modern architecture such as the spectacular Kunsthal, the impressive Rotterdam Central Station and the unusual cube houses designed by Piet Blom are some of my favourites. There is also the picturesque Delfshaven, in the west of the city, with beautiful quays, historic buildings and breathtaking monuments. Let us not forget world-class museums such as the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. You’re definitely not going to get bored quickly in Rotterdam and with this page as your guide, you can easily plan your perfect day or weekend in this lovely city. Since virtually everybody in the Netherlands speaks at least some English, getting around and communicating with people in the city should be very easy for tourists.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Go on a journey through the history of art. Dutch and European masterpieces provide an overview from the early Middle Ages to the 21st century.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen was founded after lawyer Boijmans left his art collection to the city of Rotterdam in 1849. The name is expanded after the Van Beuningen collection was also added in 1958. The museum has a unique collection of paintings, utensils and sculptures. The collection of drawings and prints is among the best in the world. You will find works by masters such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Mondriaan, Dalí and Magritte. With this diversity of artists, the museum gives a beautiful picture of art history. The museum also shows how utensils have developed over the years. From medieval jugs and glass from the Golden Age to furniture by Rietveld and contemporary Dutch Design. Dive into this beautiful museum and be amazed.

Netherlands Photography Museum

This is the national museum of photography with an impressive collection of more than five million images. From documentary to contemporary,
fans of photography should definitely add the Nederlands Fotomuseum to their to-do list. The museum shows photography in all its facets, from documentary to experimental and from contemporary to historical. You can find works by big names from the Dutch and international photography world while the museum also gives a chance to upcoming artists to showcase their work. Every year, around ten exhibitions can be seen in the museum. Furthermore, they regularly show work from their own collection. This collection full of visual heritage is a treasure trove for the public. The museum shop that specializes in photo books is also worth a visit. You will find well-known standard works for exclusive publications.

Erasmus Bridge

This Rotterdam icon is 800 meters long and 139 meters high. Thanks to the bent asymmetrical steel pylon, the bridge is also known as ‘De Zwaan’ (The Swan). The bridge was designed by architect Ben Berkel and officially opened in 1996. The Erasmus Bridge connects the city centre with the new district called Kop van Zuid. The bridge’s design was taken as the starting point and afterwards, it was examined whether the various designs were technically feasible. The Erasmus Bridge is, therefore, a beautiful combination of art and technology and can be counted among the architectural style of Supermodernism.

Saint Laurens Church Rotterdam

Sint Laurens Kerk (Church)

The Sint Laurens Church is full of stories and is the only monument from the Middle Ages in Rotterdam. View exhibitions, take a look at their enormous organ or go for a tower climb.
Visit the Laurenskerk and see the permanent exhibition that lets you experience the past through a surprising arrangement of the chapels and compelling audio fragments. Let yourself be moved, informed and laugh at the stories of the church that are told in the form of collages of images, texts, music and words. From April to October, it is also possible to climb the tower under the guidance of a church guide. The enthusiastic guides will tell you everything about the tower on the way and once you are above you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of Rotterdam.

Rotterdam Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum

As we all know, the Netherlands used to be a world-power and that meant that they had quite a powerful navy. Go on a journey through the country’s maritime past and also discover the present. Listen to stories, admire masterpieces and experience the historic ships in the museum harbour.
The amazing thing is that the museum presents visitors with an opportunity to learn about the enormous influence of the maritime world on the daily lives of people in the Netherlands. The contemporary exhibitions will amaze both the biggest and the smallest adventurers. The collection of the Maritime Museum can also be found largely outside. The museum is located in the oldest and largest museum port in the Netherlands. Experience historic ships, cargo ships, tugs and cranes and how the port of Rotterdam started at the museum premises. If you visit in the summer, it is sometimes possible to sail on some of the ships.

– Order your tickets via make sure to use our exclusive discount code ‘THINGSAMS05’ and get 5% discount –

Cube Apartments

This is one of those architectural feats that will definitely blow your mind. Cube Houses aren’t the kind of houses you come across very often.
The Cube Houses were designed in the seventies by Piet Blom. For his design he turned an ordinary cube-shaped house 45 degrees and put it on a hexagonal pylon. Every house represents a tree, so all the houses together form a forest. There are several nicknames for the Cube Houses: Huubkuberkluber, the Blaakse Bos and the Paalwoningen. The houses have three floors and a living area of around 100 square meters. Because Cube houses do not have a straight wall, buying furniture is difficult. For those who are curious about what a house looks like inside, there is the Kijkkubus. You are allowed to take a look inside of the cube houses and also takes some pictures.

De Hef

This impressive industrial building from 1927 is one of the most important monuments in Rotterdam and is a symbol of the port city.
De Hef (official name Koningshavenbrug) has been decorating Rotterdam for almost 100 years. Built to absorb the explosive population growth of the city and to facilitate train traffic to the north of the Netherlands, De Hef lost its function when a railway tunnel opened in 1994. Nevertheless, plans for demolition only met strong protest from the Rotterdammers. And just like that, De Hef stayed and then became a national monument in 2000.

The White House

Visit the 43-meter-high viewing platform in the Art Nouveau-style house. On the ground floor, you will find the Grand Café and cocktail bar Elit.
Rotterdam simply has its own White House. This house, built in Art Nouveau style, was designed by architect Molenbroek. The 43-meter high building was the first skyscraper in the Netherlands and even in Europe with 10 floors. As if by a miracle, it survived all bombings in Rotterdam during the Second World War. On the flat roof is a viewing platform that can be reached by elevator. After you’ve enjoyed the view, you can go for a snack and a drink on the ground floor in the Grand Café or Restaurant Cocktailbar Elit.

World Museum

The art collection in this museum gives you an idea of the development of Rotterdam as a beautiful European and world city. Dive into the colonial past while also being amazed with objects from the present. Discover how the city has developed and take a look at other cultures. You can see the city’s welcoming and exuberant character, and the business instinct of the city. The Wereldmuseum is a product of the city, shaped by its history and mentality. The collection of the museum reflects 160 years of collecting objects by Rotterdam, for Rotterdam.

What to do in Rotterdam?

In the middle of the busy traffic of inland shipping and seagoing vessels, you will experience a special cruise through one of the largest seaports in the world. You will see the impressive skyline with imposing buildings gliding past you, followed by a unique view of shipyards, docks and the hypermodern transhipment of thousands of containers. Finally, you will sail along the steamship Rotterdam, the former flagship of the Holland America Line

1. Take a boat cruise or a water taxi around the city

Rotterdam is the best from the water. On a water taxi tour, our skippers will be happy to show you the city and its historic and modern ports. You can determine the duration and / or route of a cruise. You also always sail with your own company. Special round trips for photo or film reports and wedding photography are also possible.

You can also experience Rotterdam on the water with your own guide. Highly recommended is a combined cruise and city walk that takes place through the old city harbors and the center of Rotterdam. Or let yourself be roamed on a private ship with a city guide while enjoying tasty snacks and drinks.

– Order your tickets via make sure to use our exclusive discount code ‘THINGSAMS05’ and get 5% discount –

2. Join the Baja Bikes Cycling Tour of Rotterdam

This is the best bicycle tour in Rotterdam. The Baja Bikes Cycling Tour offers you a chance to discover Rotterdam’s hidden gems and must-sees with an experienced guide. This way you will pass the many beautiful buildings that Rotterdam offers at a faster pace, but you can also easily get to know the outskirts of the city. Baja Bikes Rotterdam Cycling Tour is a combination of experiencing urban splendor and scenic beauty and burning some calories! Do you fancy a sporty outing with a guide and would you like to see the city from a different perspective? Then make a reservation and enjoy the very best of sightseeing.

Order your tickets via Baja Bikes with the discount code ‘BB0825’ for a 5% discount.

  • English-speaking guide
  • Bike Tour Rotterdam
  • Child seats available
  • Incl. Martkhal, Cube houses and more
  • Book now, pay later!

3. Visit the Wilhelminapapier

On this architectural calling card of the Netherlands, you will find a mix of monumental warehouses and spectacular new buildings. The Erasmus Bridge, The Rotterdam, the New Orleans building, the Luxor Theater, the Cruise Terminal, Montevideo and so on. There is plenty to see on this pier, which largely determines Rotterdam’s skyline. With hot spots such as the Photo Museum, the terrace of Hotel New York and restaurants such as the famous Las Palmas (by Herman den Blijker) it is a place where you will not easily get bored.

4. Taste some fresh foods at the Markthal (Market halls)

This is the first covered market hall in the Netherlands. A place where good food, fresh produce and diverse cultures come together in a spectacular arch. The Markthal is an icon and pride of Rotterdam and Rotterdammers. The special shape of the building appeals to the imagination of everyone who sees it. The inside is so beautiful that many still consider it to be one of the largest and most beautiful artworks by artist Arno Coenen. The surface of 11,000 m2 is covered with bright colors and is now also known as the ‘Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam’. What makes the Markthal so special is the sellers and their unique and fresh wares. You will find 96 stalls and 20 shops and restaurants. Experience flavors from famous and new cultures and if possible, get a guided tour from one of the many local guides.

5. Go shopping in the Beurtraverse

The middle of the city centre is exactly where you’d find this half-underground shopping street with over 80 stores in the field of fashion, lifestyle, gifts and catering. The Beurtraverse, also called Koopgoot by Rotterdammers, is a shopping street that is right under the Coolsingel. You can enjoy shopping without being bothered by the busy traffic above you. In the street, you will find many well-known chain stores and is always very busy during the summer months.

6. Go shopping in the Beurtraverse

In the middle of the center, you will find this half-underground shopping street with over 80 stores in the field of fashion, lifestyle, gifts and catering.
The Beurtraverse, also called Koopgoot by Rotterdammers, is a shopping street that runs under the Coolsingel. You can enjoy shopping without being bothered by the busy traffic above you. In the street, you will find many well-known chain stores. The Beurtraverse has various entrances, and the Beurs underground station also comes out underground in the middle of the shopping street.

7. Taste some Dutch delicacies  on the steamship SS Rotterdam

Discover this former cruise ship, drink a cup of coffee and enjoy the view of the magical skyline of Rotterdam.
The SS Rotterdam made its first trip to New York in 1959 and for more than 40 years, sailed the oceans. Discover the aft deck, watch a film about the trans-Atlantic crossing or explore the bridge and engine room during a guided tour. There’s also the possibility of an exciting trip and you will also find an escape room while on board. As far as food and drinks are concerned, there is plenty to choose from steak, champagne, Rotterdam fishmonger and so on. You will find two restaurants and several bars on the steamship and It is also possible to stay overnight on the ship as there are more than 254  comfortable hotel rooms.

8. Visit the Fenix Food Factory

The Fenix Food Factory is a space where everything is fresh. Open the doors of the converted harbor shed and enter a delicious, culinary world.
Since the factory’s refurbishment, you will find many culinary entrepreneurs in the fenix sheds (on the Katendrecht peninsula). It is a place where you can get bread that is baked on the spot, the coffee is freshly roasted, they brew beer and so on. You will also find a cider shop, bookstore and farmhouse cheese shop.

9. Visit the Euromast

The Euromast is 185 meters high and thus the highest tower in the Netherlands. Step into the elevator and shoot up almost 100 meters at 4 meters per second, to the crow’s nest of the Euromast. From this point, you have a beautiful view over the skyline of Rotterdam. You can easily look over all the high buildings and with some luck, see Antwerp. At the top, you will find next to a beautiful view a shop with nice souvenirs and a dinner. Besides dining, you can also go for brunch, lunch and, if applicable, a high tea and high wine. More information about the Euromast is on our specific page about the Euromast.

– Order your tickets with our exclusive discount code ‘THINGSTODO10’ and get 10% extra off –

10. Discover the city with the Hop-on Hop-off buses

A visit to Rotterdam would not be complete without seeing the sights with the hop-on-hop-off buses. Learn as much as you can about Rotterdam on doubledecker buses with GPS guides. Bus tickets are valid for 24 hours with stops at the harbour, market hall and Euromast.

– Order your tickets with our exclusive discount code ‘THINGSTODO10’ and get 10% extra off –

11. Visit Rotterdam Zoo “Diergaarde Blijdorp”

Last, but definitely not least, is a visit to Rotterdam Zoo Blijdorp. Become one of the 1.5 million visitors per year one of the most popular attractions in the Netherlands. Blijdorp stands for nature conservation, recreation, education and research for scientific research. It offers a great break away from city sightseeing!

Hotels and accommodations in Rotterdam

If you’re doing a day trip to Rotterdam, you might find that there’s more you want to see and do, than you can do in just one day. You could, therefore, consider staying the night in Rotterdam. In general, finding an affordable hotel in Rotterdam is a lot easier than in Amsterdam! If you compare the averages rates per night in Rotterdam, to Amsterdam, you’re usually way better off. Check out the latest deals on accommodations in Rotterdam below.

How to get to there

Rotterdam isn’t very far from Amsterdam. There are lots of ways to go there from the Amsterdam Central Station. It’s approximately 50 minutes train ride from the Central Station.

Trains From Amsterdam

There are trains leaving Amsterdam Central to Rotterdam Central every 15 minutes and it takes 45 minutes to travel from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. Tickets costs € 15,40 for a one-way journey.

Trains From Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

There’s a train from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Rotterdam every 10 minutes. The Duration is 25 minutes and a ticket costs € 12,40 for a one-way journey.

By Bus to Rotterdam

Eurolines operates bus service between Rotterdam and many cities across Europe. Buses arrive and depart at the office at Conradstraat 16, next to Rotterdam Central Station. Tickets can be purchased online or from the office.

Megabus operates bus service between Rotterdam and many cities in Belgium, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Tickets are generally cheaper if purchased well in advance. Buses arrive and depart at Rotterdam Central Station.

By Boat (Ferry)

You can also get to Rotterdam by ferry from the United Kingdom.

Stenaline has a daily day as well as a daily overnight sailing from Harwick to Hook of Holland. From Hoek van Holland Haven you have a connecting rail service to Rotterdam Centraal Station that takes you to the city centre of Rotterdam in 30 minutes.

P&O Ferries has a daily overnight sailing from Hull to Rotterdam Europoort. From Rotterdam Europoort P&O Ferries operates a shuttle bus service that takes you to the city center of Rotterdam (45min). Note: You have to book this shuttle service while you book your sailing.

DFDS Seaways has a daily overnight ferry crossing from Newcastle to IJmuiden, next to Amsterdam. You can drive to Rotterdam in approx. 50 minutes.

For onward travel Rotterdam Centraal Station is well served by bus, tram, metro and taxi. Click on the link below for realtime information on buses and other means of transportation from your destination to Rotterdam.



Parking in Rotterdam

In the center of Rotterdam, unlimited and paid parking applies on every day of the week. You can pay with (pre-paid) chipknip, mobile and sometimes also with credit card. The parking information system helps you find the desired parking space. The parking garage fees in Rotterdam are reasonable. It is very busy in the weekend, you have to search for a place. You can pay in cash, but also with a chip card, debit card and credit card.

Some areas to park in Rotterdam are;

Park Bee:

ParkBee Parking garage Witte de With Rotterdam is located near the Witte de Withstraat, Westblaak and Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Blaak. With this parking garage you can only park with the Parkmobile App.
ParkBee Witte de With has a capacity of 5 parking spaces during the week and 25 parking spaces on weekends. You can park here for only € 2, – per hour and max € 12.50 per 24-hour.

P + R (Park & Ride) Parking:

Rotterdam has a number of P + R areas where you can park for free or cheaply, close to a metro station. With the metro you are in Rotterdam in a few minutes. On P + R Alexander and P + R Slinge you can park for € 2 if you check in and out with your OV-chipkaart during your trip, P + R Meijersplein is free. Those who do not travel further with public transport pay the applicable parking fee.

Parking on the streets

In the center of Rotterdam there are two rates for parking on the street: a rate of € 3.33 per hour (€ 0.50 per 9 minutes) and a rate of € 2.50 per hour (€ 0.50 per 12 minutes) . Outside the center area, one hour of parking costs € 1.67 (€ 0.50 per 18 minutes). Payment can be made by calling parking or in some cases by credit card. Garages in the center of Rotterdam are cheaper than parking on the street.

For cars only, you will find this parking area adjacent to the ‘Slobbeland’ recreation area. From here, less than a five-minute walk will bring you to the old harbour.

Note: People with a disability card can park at specially designated parking spaces.

Don’t Forget to Buy Your Rotterdam Welcome Card

Make the most of your visit to Rotterdam with the Rotterdam Welcome Card. With this card, you receive a minimum of 25% discount at 50 attractions, museums, restaurants and nightlife. And on top of that, you can travel unrestricted for 1, 2 or 3 consecutive days by bus, tram or metro from city transporter RET.

The Rotterdam Welcome Card offers a 25% discount at 50 attractions, museums, restaurants and nightlife. You can use the discounts by showing the pass of the Rotterdam Welcome Card at the ticket office at the locations of your choice. On top of that, you can travel unrestricted for 1, 2 or 3 consecutive days by bus, tram or metro.

Advantages of the Rotterdam Welcome Card

  • Unlimited travel around the city for 3 consecutive days on all the metros, trams and bus lines of the RET (the city’s public transport provider).
  • 20% discount at 50 different attractions, museums, restaurants and nightlife possibilities.
  • Rotterdam City Map

Please note: the OV chip card is not valid on the Fast Ferry, the Waterbus and other transport companies that are not affiliated with the FET.

– Order your tickets via make sure to use our exclusive discount code ‘THINGSAMS05’ and get 5% discount –

Are you interested to take a look at other places for a day trip in the Netherlands? We made an overview of the very best places for a day trip while you’re visiting Holland.

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